“Don’t eat gluten. Running is bad for you. You should be putting money in your 401K. Natural birth is the only way. What you smoke! Gasp!”
Our society loves to tell us what to do. It sends constant (yet inconsistent) messages about the right and wrong ways to live our lives. This has only gotten worse as social media has allowed people to judge from afar, often making broad comments about someone’s life with almost no context whatsoever. Trying to sort out what are right and wrong ways to act can be dizzying. The reality is, what is true for one person’s path may not be true for someone else. Every life journey is unique and the more we realize this, the more we can respect the journeys of others and ourselves.
This idea that the concept of right and wrong is variable is one of the things that attracted me to Vedic philosophy. I was always turned off by religions and schools of thought that were entrenched in “righteousness.” You are attracted to your same sex, you’re wrong. You have a child with someone you’re not married to, you’re wrong. You worship God on Saturday, you’re wrong. My God is right, your god is wrong. This polarizing world view has led to untold amounts of suffering.
This polarization has its source in the idea that God is separate from you. That there is a being called God working for good and another called Satan that is working for evil and our actions are supporting one or the other. This dimensionless perspective is based on two and is polarizing. The Vedic perspective is based on three. Rather than good and evil, there is creation, maintenance and destruction. None are bad and all support each other. If there is any reference to “evil,” it is referring to ignorance, as in ignoring that we are all One, that we are all God.
Because the philosophy is based on three, rather than everything being black and white, there is black, white and grey. The truth is, we live in a relative existence so there is no absolute black or white, everything is a shade of grey.
Because our society has elaborated from this place, every aspect of our culture operates in this fashion. Take health and medicine for example. If you go to the doctor, you will likely get the same advice he or she gave to his or her other patients. Take these vitamins. Eat these things, they’re good foods, don’t eat these, they’re bad. If you go to an Ayurvedic practitioner, he or she will look at your specific body type which is unique only to you and suggest a course of action from there. For example, according to Ayurveda, for some people coffee is unhealthy, but for others coffee would actually be helpful.
There was this vegan blogger I followed who got pregnant. Her intuition told her she needed to schedule the birth and have a c-section. It turns out there was an issue with the pregnancy and it was the wise thing to do. Nevertheless, she lost many of her followers who couldn’t believe she would stoop to giving birth this way, the “wrong” way in their minds. For me, it was the opposite. For my first child, I had a strong intuition during the hospital tour that I shouldn’t not birth there, so the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I quickly organized a home birth. Turns out, labor started on the 4th of July, and it was a fast and intense birth. I never would have made it to the hospital in all the holiday traffic.
We can see where having a black and white view on politics has gotten us. When we are polarized, we cannot see unity. We cannot support another’s path as being different from ours. We cannot help but default to “othering” people. We cannot help but feel shame when we don’t fit whatever mold of right and wrong we’ve been culturally indoctrinated to believe.
Meditation helps us to see beyond cultural indoctrination. It lets us see all the subtle, beautiful grey in every aspect of life. It helps us to accept things and people for what and who they are, rather than trying to control them. It helps us to accept ourselves for who we are, innocently and without judgement.
Kristen Vandivier is an instructor of Vedic Meditation and the founder of The Vedic Method and Meditation Without Borders. She is regarded for her ability to make profound teachings relevant to everyday life and her mission of promoting meditation for social change. After completing an intensive curriculum of training under renowned Master Maharishi Vyasananda Thom Knoles, including a three-month immersion program in the Himalayas, Kristen returned to found her practice. She lives in Mill Valley with her husband and three small children.
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Originally published at https://www.thevedicmethod.com on July 9, 2020.